EPA

Environmental Experts Say New EPA Head Can't Stop Clean Energy Revolution

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The World Resources Institute (WRI) has held a press call to discuss the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as the EPA Administrator for the Trump administration. Pruitt’s nomination has been quite controversial given that in his previous job as Oklahoma’s state attorney general he had sued the EPA on numerous occasions, particularly over regulations dealing with the electric power industry. Pruitt has been a leading opponent of Obama’s Clean Power Plan which gave the EPA the authority to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.

On hand for the call were several authorities in the area of environmental and energy policy, including:

  • Sue Tierney, Managing Principal, Analysis Group, and former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy (and a WRI Board Director)
  • Ralph Becker, former Mayor of Salt Lake City
  • Anne L. Kelly, Senior Program Director, Policy and BICEP Program at CERES
  • Sam Adams, WRI US Director and former mayor of Portland, OR
  • Martha Roberts, EDF, Attorney, U.S. Climate Legal and Regulatory Program

Adams opened by saying that “scrutiny is warranted, considering the responsibility that EPA bears in ensuring public and environmental health of our nation.” Thoughtful analysis is also called for, he said, considering the urgency of issues like climate change.

Recounting some testimony from Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, which, somewhat ironically, fell on the same day that NASA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third consecutive year, Pruitt did say that he acknowledged that climate change is real (moderating his prior position) and that there is a human aspect to it. However, he questioned the scientific consensus as to the severity of the problem and the need for action. In his testimony, he conveyed no sense of urgency about the issue. Pruitt, according to Adams, also overstated the significance of the Supreme Court’s temporary suspension of the clean power rule on procedural grounds, and played down his ties with the fossil fuel industry

Pruitt has said, on the record, in reference to his repeated use of his role as the state’s chief enforcement officer to file lawsuits on behalf of companies that have supported his political career, to challenge regulations put in place to protect the health and safety of the people he was sworn to protect, "That's actually called representative government, in my view of the world....” Others might call it political patronage. In one case, it was discovered that Pruitt had copied a  letter from an oil and gas company, nearly verbatim, onto his stationary as Attorney General, before submitting it to the EPA.

Mr. Pruitt also refused to commit to recusing himself as EPA administrator, when confronted with lawsuits against the EPA that he personally filed when Attorney General of Oklahoma.

Martha Roberts shared EDF’s view of Scott Pruitt. Describing him as someone who “has spent his entire professional life attempting to dismantle environmental protections, working hand-in-glove with some of our nation’s biggest polluters, who have bankrolled his political career, that nominee becomes an unacceptable risk to the American people.”

Pruitt is the first EPA nominee that EDF has opposed in its 50-year history. Roberts went on to quote Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under George W. Bush, who said of Pruitt’s record, “I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.”

Study Describes Additional Economic Benefits of Clean Power Plan

(3BlLMedia/Justmeans) — In the weeks ahead, a new administration will take the reins of control in government. On their agenda is the dismantling of many of the environmental regulations put in place by the Obama administration. One of these, the Clean Power Plan, which was aimed at reducing carbon emissions from electric power plants, has been the target of multiple lawsuits by Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General of Oklahoma, who will soon head the EPA. It seems certain that Pruitt will do what he can to weaken this law, if not eliminate it entirely. The rationale is apparently economic, based on the idea that regulation costs businesses money rather than simply stimulating them to be more innovative.

Protecting public welfare has been the charter and mission of the EPA since its inception in 1973 under the Nixon administration. Research recently conducted jointly at Drexel, Syracuse, Boston and Harvard Universities, has shown a surprising number of the favorable impacts of the Clean Power Plan, beyond protecting the public.

Specifically, the study looked at the impact of the Plan on crops and trees. While the EPA acknowledged a positive impact on crops and trees when first assessing the impact of the Plan, it made no attempt to quantify it.

Fossil fuel plants emit a number of dangerous emissions. These include carbon, nitrogen and sulfur which combine to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone is a well-known inhibitor of plant growth. In modeling these reductions, the researchers found that they “would provide a significant boost to the productivity of key indicator crops, such as corn, cotton, soybean and potato; as well as several tree species.”

Therefore, controlling these emissions would result in higher yields of these crops and a better economic outcome.

Says, Shannon Capps, PhD, an assistant professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, one of the study’s authors, “With policies similar to those in the Clean Power Plan, we're projecting more than a 15 percent reduction in corn productivity losses due to ozone exposure, compared to business as usual, and about half of that for cotton and soybeans. Depending on market value fluctuations of these crops over the next few years, that could mean gains of tens of millions of dollars for farmers--especially in areas like the Ohio River Valley where power plants currently contribute to ground-level ozone."

EPA Report Does Not Conclude That Fracking is Safe

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The practice of hydraulic fracking has had a substantial impact on many facets of American life. It made the US the world’s top producer of both oil and natural gas in 2014. It has dramatically lowered the cost of these fuels which has been a boon to the economy, both for manufacturers and individuals. It has bolstered the economy of certain regions of the country, particularly in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas, among others.

Driving the Future: A Tale of a Call to Action on Climate and a Long Delayed Response

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - I recently read Driving the Future, the new book by Margo T. Oge, former director of EPA’s Office of Air Quality and Transportation. It’s the story of the evolving effort within the EPA to get the government to take action on climate change, which it finally did, after years of delay ,with the passage of two separate rounds of fuel economy standards, first in 2009, then a second in 2012. Not only was this the first U.S. government action taken on this issue, it was also surprisingly effective. This single stroke of the pen in 2012, will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, possibly making it the largest single action taken to date in the effort to reduce emissions.

The book opens with the history of climate change science, going back to the work of Karl Friedrich Schimper in the 1830’s, who along with Louis Agassiz, recognized the existence of glaciers and ice ages. From there, the narratuve layers on the evidence, describing the work of John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius, who both demonstrated the heat trapping ability of certain atmospheric gases. It was Arrhenius who recognized that without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the entire planet would remain perpetually frozen.

Work in the US began in 1946 with Roger Revelle who worked with the Navy, studying various phenomena in the Pacific Ocean after the war. This led to an understanding of how the ocean absorbs carbon and how the sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere. Describing the impact of his findings, Revelle testified before a Congressional committee in 1957, calling the use of fossil fuels, “a grandiose scientific experiment,” which could potentially lead to dramatic and erratic shifts in the Earth’s climate in the next century. This was in 1957. It was Revelle who, in 1965, as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee, caught the attention of a Harvard undergraduate name Al Gore, inspiring him to look further into the topic. Scientists meanwhile, continued to study the issue, refining their understanding.

By 1977, NY Times science writer Walter Sullivan had the subject on the Times’ front page with a story entitled, “Scientists Fear Heavy Use of Coal May Bring Adverse Shift in Climate.” The story goes on from here and you’ve probably heard the rest. Yet here we are, almost 40 years later with over half the Republicans in Congress, acting like this is some new, controversial theory that hasn’t had time to be fully investigated.

Groups Sue BLM Over Coal Leases

GM Receives CDP Top Rating for Climate Disclosure and Performance

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - There is a now-famous quote attributed to Charles Wilson, who, in 1953 was the CEO of General Motors. What Wilson supposedly said was, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”

While that was never entirely true, GM has recently been doing some things that have been good for America, and the rest of the world, which has also been good for themselves as well.

What GM has been doing is taking action to minimize their carbon emissions and being highly transparent in their reporting of those actions. Enough so that CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, gave them a perfect score of 100 in their 2014 assessment of all the companies in the S&P 500 based and disclosure and performance.

The CDP report, entitled “Climate Action and Profitability,” was undertaken to provide a massive group of investors representing some $92 trillion in assets with information on the climate actions and disclosure practices of all the companies in the S&P 500. Surveys were sent out to all 500 companies. A total of 348 responded. The report found strong correlation between climate action and profitability, specifically, return on equity (ROE).

Federal Agencies Saving Surprising Amounts of Energy

Talk about flying under the radar! While the White House and Congress are in gridlock, with the legislative body doing everything they can to ensure that nothing is being done about climate change, a number of provisions that were included in the 2007 Energy and Security Act that was passed during the Bush administration are quietly being used to produce enormous energy savings for the American people.

According to a white paper by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), actions that have already been taken, are planned, or that are now underway, could have a net present value, through 2040, of $2.6 trillion. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire US government tax revenue for the year 2013. It also equates to 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and a reduction of energy consumption equivalent to 3.4 million barrels a day. For comparison purposes, the US has been emitting somewhere between 5 and 6 billion metric tons per year since 1990 and imports roughly 9 million barrels of oil per day. That works out to an annual reduction in emissions exceeding 20%.

These actions are being taken through various Federal agencies including DOE, EPA, Dept. of Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These include appliance standards (both existing and proposed), vehicle standards (existing and proposed), power plant standard (proposed), and housing policies (existing and proposed). Results are shown for the cumulative estimated savings by 2040 in the table below.

World Leaders Challenged to Address Climate Change by NYC March

(3BL Media and Just Means) - Tens of thousands of people are expected to march alongside environmentalist Bill McKibben in New York City on September 20 and 21st.  In a recently published article he wrote in Rolling Stone, “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change,” McKibben invited all to join him to make a ‘loud movement,’ lifting banners that say  “CLIMATE/JOBS. TWO CRISES, ONE SOLUTION.”

Bye-Bye Brownfield: General Motors Gives Students Hands-on Sustainability Experience

An innovative program transforms a brownfield into a wildlife habitat, giving students real-world experience as environmental stewards

Leonardo Academy Gets EPA Grant to Promote Clean Diesel

Leonardo Academy gets grant to make diesel more sustainable.

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